EU says Afghanistan fighting has 'grave impact on civilians'

Brussels urges Taliban to join peace negotiations after Nato withdrawal

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. AFP
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The fighting in Afghanistan as Nato forces withdraw is having a grave effect on civilians, the EU's foreign policy chief said.

Josep Borrell said the number of civilian casualties was up by nearly a quarter compared to earlier in the year, with more attacks against the ethnic minority Hazaras.

EU foreign ministers held talks on Afghanistan on Monday, when they urged the Taliban to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss an end to the fighting.

A Taliban offensive has put Afghan security forces on the back foot as the US and its Nato allies end their 20-year military presence.

"The fighting is having a grave impact on civilians," said Mr Borrell at a press conference in Brussels.

"The ministers have unanimously urged the Taliban to engage in substantive and conclusive peace negotiations.

"We also call on countries in the region and the broader international community to play a constructive role in support of the Afghanistan peace process."

The Nato withdrawal led to fears that Afghan security forces will be overrun in a "Saigon moment" echoing the fall of South Vietnam in 1975.

The Taliban claims to control 85 per cent of Afghanistan, and international concern about getting medicines and supplies into the country is increasing.

US President Joe Biden said that Washington will continue to support the people of Afghanistan but that Kabul must determine its own future.

The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan prompted its government to urge European countries not to deport any more Afghan migrants.

The advance by the Taliban has caused a wave of internally displaced families, a situation complicated by another outbreak of coronavirus.

Finland said on Monday that it would pause deportations while it assessed security issues in Afghanistan.

But Austria's Foreign Minister, Alexander Schallenberg, spoke out on Monday against Kabul's call to stop deportations.

"I think that is a bad sign. It is simply unacceptable because we have a deal with Afghanistan and deals must be respected," he said.

"It cannot be a one-way street. The EU is one of the major financial backers of Afghanistan."

Updated: July 12, 2021, 5:09 PM